Placer plays to its strengths

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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As Placer High’s track and field season gets under way, coach Mark Chamberlin has a goal for each of his 85 athletes: Try to keep the season going as long as you can. 
“Ideally that’s what we’re trying to accomplish is having more kids go as far as they possibly can,” he said. 
Last year Placer sent one athlete, Shelby Crider, to the State Meet.  Now a senior, Crider returns in 2013 as a top pole vaulter. 
“We hadn’t had a kid in the State Meet for a couple of years,” Chamberlin said. “She got over 11 feet, 6 inches. The school record is 12 feet. She’s got the ability to compete for the school record.” 
Chamberlin also thinks his team has the ability to compete for both the Pioneer Valley League boys and girls titles this year.
“The thing that we’re trying to do is always try to win league,” the coach said. “We were first with our girls and second with our guys last year. That’s the way it’s been in recent years. 
“It’s kind of tough because where we’re strong Center is weak and where we’re weak Center is strong on the guys’ side. The problem is they’re strong on the sprints. Nine of the 16 events are in the sprints. So if you are good at the sprints, you have an advantage. That’s why our girls are so good in this league.”
The Hillmen have seven team leaders, including seniors Viktor Dorofeyev (distance runner), Beau Babcock (pole vaulter), Ryan Dawson (hurdler), Nathan Swissley (thrower), Makayla Ratcliff (sprints) and Kerry McCullough (triple jumper/anchor of 4-by-4). Junior Becky Matthews (distance runner) is the lone non-senior leader.
Chamberlin considers the distance runners and throwers, particularly at discus and shot put, to be the team’s strengths for boys. 
For distance events, Dorofeyev will compete in the 800-meter races, Gama Gomez the mile and Toby Qualls two miles. 
Qualls was the PVL boys MVP in the fall for cross country. Chamberlin said Qualls is considered one of the best distance runners in the Sacramento Valley. 
Other top throwers include senior James Hubbard, sophomore Johnny Capra and freshmen Jacob Capra and Fredrick Feis. 
“Our boy throwers are very strong,” Chamberlin said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that are throwing over 130 (feet with the disk).” 
For the girls, Chamberlin expects the team to be solid in sprints and jumps.
Junior Meghan Tucker figures to lead the way in long jump, as she already broke the school record last year. A formidable sprinter, she’ll also be the anchor on the 4-by-1
Sophomore Dylan Page will be one of the top sprinters, and will also be on the 4-by-1 unit. 
Junior Macaylea Mitchell, who is doing double duty and also playing soccer, will be strong at 400 meters and sprints and might even do hurdles, too. 
Matthews and junior Lea Fong, also a good vaulter, will be hurdlers to keep an eye on. 
McCullough will anchor the 4-by-4 and compete in the long jump. 
“She’s got hops,” Chamberlin said of the 5-foot-2 McCullough. “She’s amazing.”
Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel